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“I am With You”

“I sighed, “Sometimes it feels better not to go at all. These trips are difficult. Every time I leave the city I feel lonesome.”

The Rebbe answered in a heartbeat. “You are not alone. Wherever you work for the fortification of the Torah, I am with you.”

Rabbi Fogelman

What note did the Rabbi Fogelman keep in his wallet his whole life? What warning did he get before his move to a new synagogue and apartment?

The Avner Institute presents a collection of firsthand accounts by Rabbi Hershel Fogelman, of blessed memory, a legendary emissary of Massachusetts who merited many encounters over the years with both the Previous Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn and the current Rebbe, and many holy missions.

Good Shabbos
Menachem

Rebbe F1971
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Eternal Reverence

Rabbi Fogelman relates:

It was the end of Av 5743 [1943]. I was about to embark for Buffalo, NY, somewhat a spiritual wilderness, to work at a yeshiva. The Previous Rebbe blessed me profusely for success.

“Besides your work at the yeshiva,” he added, “you should try to speak in the local synagogues. But be sure not to step on anyone’s toes. Don’t try to take over the other rabbis’ posts. They already have their set services and sermons.”

He concluded, “Remember, you are being sent to add, and not to detract.”

I sighed, “Sometimes it feels better not to go at all. These trips are difficult. Every time I leave the city I feel lonesome.”

The Rebbe answered in a heartbeat. “You are not alone. Wherever you work for the fortification of the Torah, I am with you.”

My work in Buffalo actually turned out quite a success – thanks, in no small measure, to someone’s holy help.

Addendum: Rabbi Fogelman wrote down these words on a small piece of paper, which he kept and carried in his wallet his entire life.

Atonement for the Mitzvoth

Rabbi Yaakov Schiff told me that he was in Switzerland when the Previous Rebbe spoke there, accompanied by our Rebbe. In time Rabbi Schiff became very close to our Rebbe, and the latter once sent him to deliver an important letter to the post office.

On the way, curiosity overcame Rabbi Schiff, and he peeked inside the letter. It was written by the Previous Rebbe about the Tanya and its printing.

When Rabbi Schiff returned from the post office, the Rebbe asked if he completed his assignment. The rabbi answered yes, but admitted what he had done.

“Hayitachenó? How could you?” the Rebbe exclaimed.

Rabbi Schiff explained with a story: When he was a boy, his father brought him, on holidays, to see Yeshayele Kastirer, a Rebbe from a Polish-Chassidic sect. During the holidays, they had no wine for Kiddush and barely any challah for lechem mishneh, the double portion needed for a meal. Moreover, they could barely hear the prayers in shul.

The boy turned to his father and asked, “Why at home are all the mitzvoth completed to perfection and here, at the Rebbe’s court, they are wanting?”

His father answered, “My child, the [so-called] wanting mitzvoth that we perform when at the Rebbe are an atonement for the mitzvoth we do a whole year.”

Our Rebbe smiled and apparently accepted his answer.

Unlocking the Door

It was 5710 [1950]. Shortly after 10 Shevat, the passing of the Previous Rebbe, my wife and I were advised by members of the Orthodox synagogue in Worcester, where I had accepted a post, to relocate to an empty apartment on top of the synagogue. As we lived a distance away, this made sense. After first consulting with the future current Rebbe, I agreed.

Up at Worcester, however, there were a few people who opposed our move, because I was a Lubavitcher and this was not a Chabad synagogue. Nevertheless, the members held a meeting and the majority voted in our favor.

This took place on Saturday night. Sunday, following our Hebrew School Program, I called the Rebbe to inform him about the apartment.

He said something astonishing: “You should place a lock on the door before your opponents do.”

Just a few moments later, a friend, named Mr. Rothenthal, stop by. “I must warn you,” he whispered. “There is a plan to lock you out of your new place.”

Clearly the Rebbe’s words were ruach hakodesh [divine insight]. My wife and I rushed over to our new place, unlocked the door, and thank G-d, arrived successfully.

The High Priest

It was 11 Shevat 5710 [1950], the day after the passing of the Previous Rebbe. As preparations for his funeral were underway, I stood next to the future Rebbe, reciting Psalms. In an adjoining room, the older and more experienced Chassidim busied themselves with the traditional pre-burial cleansing of the Previous Rebbe’s body.

Suddenly the door opened, and in walked Rabbi Mordechai Groner, of blessed memory. He asked the future Rebbe what the proper order of clothing ought to be for dressing the deceased: the pants first, or the shirt?

Without missing a beat the Rebbe answered, “It appears to me that the Rambam rules: for the Kohen Gadol, the Temple High Priest, pants were adorned first.”

©2017 The Avner Institute | 1526 Union St, 2 Fl. Brooklyn N.Y. 11213

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